How to Effectively (and Responsibly) Market to Children
Children are major influencers on purchasing decisions in their households — and we’re not just talking about toys and breakfast cereals. Among other things, they impact which groceries, entertainment choices, and clothing a household elects to buy. Naturally, some businesses will want to market to this lucrative demographic.
As all marketers know, you need to meet your customers in the middle. There are millions upon millions of users on social media, and marketers know that they need to make it a key component of their strategy. That’s why 93 percent of all marketers regularly engage with consumers on it. And many children are on social media as well.
Technically speaking, children under the age of 13 shouldn’t be using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, both of which have a minimum age requirement. Of course, that doesn’t stop nearly 60 percent of all young children from opening social media accounts.
Marketers on social media make it their business to personalize their content to meet the needs and expectations of target consumers. When your target consumer includes children, your approach to marketing needs to change. Failing to do so can result in a severe backlash and risk of alienation for your brand.
What is the most effective and, more importantly, responsible way to engage with this young audience?
Don’t Court Controversy
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, reassess whether your business should be marketing to children in the first place. Depending on your product or service, it may be inappropriate. Be mindful, however, that even seemingly innocuous brands can catch flak for what is perceived as “predatory marketing” towards children. Fast food chains like McDonald’s and Subway have been heavily criticized for this very reason. It is wise to determine whether your marketing efforts might receive this same backlash.
If you know that your business should not be marketing to children, don’t leave room for equivocation. An infamous misstep in this arena is Camel cigarettes’ mascot Joe Camel. While company executives denied that this character was intended to lure in young children, the FTC found that it was in fact doing so. As a result of press coverage regarding this issue, the reputation of the brand suffered great damage. Simply put, don’t create a “Joe Camel” for your brand if it might generate controversy.
How to Appeal to Kids on Social Media
First, you need to get users to connect with your brand on social media. Diehard fans will likely seek you out, but you can find additional followers by advertising your social media presence on your product or through advertising.
You should try to individualize your advertising as much as possible. Your target demographic information should be precise. Social media metrics can be a great start. Examine the age, gender, and interests of your audience. Are there any trends, or shared interests or beliefs that you can include in your marketing?
If you need help narrowing down your demographic, consider offering a “kids club” on your social media accounts to glean more information about your audience. In return for completing surveys and providing other feedback (with the permission of a parent), many brands offer promotions or early access to certain products. This can give valuable information about your consumers for future marketing efforts.
Through A/B testing, experiment with different approaches for different parts of your consumer base. If consumers respond well to one strategy, continue to refine it and resume testing until you’ve found your ideal approach. Of course, this is an ongoing process. Keep a pulse on current trends and try to stay as relevant and fresh as possible to your audience.
One caveat: don’t “talk down” to children. Many kids are savvy enough to detect when someone is inauthentic. Relatable messaging creates sales; out-of-touch pandering creates negative brand perception. Failure to keep this in mind will be more likely to cause people to draw comparisons between your brand and cringey memes than to actually buy your product.
Appeal to the Parents
Another way to earn the trust of the public is to practice transparency in your advertising efforts. Even if you think that you are exclusively speaking directly to your young target audience on social media, you’re not. Parents usually review their child’s Internet activity. It’s essential that your messaging appeals to both demographics. You can be sure that marketing that might be perceived as manipulative or underhanded will cause parents to give your products or services a hard pass.
In addition to enticing children through the excitement, fun, and unique features you have to offer, promote some parent-friendly selling points. If your brand produces snacks, stress the positive nutritional aspects. If you are creating ads for kid-oriented games or toys, explain how your product educates them or fosters creativity. While children are major influencers in the household, be sure that your messages are parent-friendly as well.
Consider that many parents have reservations about their children being on social media in the first place. Social media has been proven to have a very real impact on our emotional well-being, and children are especially vulnerable. Help dispel these concerns by focusing on positive, inclusive messaging.
In addition, safety is a key concern on social media for parents. According to KinderCare’s blog, “Safety is one of the most important things we can teach children — and how we teach it is just as important.” Take part in this education by guiding children towards safe online behaviors. These disclaimers should be prominently displayed wherever such users are expected to engage with your brand.
These are the basics of marketing to children on social media. Fumbling in these efforts can be costly, but with these tips in mind, you can build a strong and effective presence online. Not only will these efforts give fans a chance to engage with your brand online, but they can help you enhance your marketing to better reach a wider audience.